The crowd was smaller and it looked even older at the informational meeting the Lake Michigan Program held in Des Plaines Wednesday night. In the long run, that may be just as worrisome as the collapse of the forage in the big lake.
Biologist Steve Robillard did a good job leading the meeting, then sticking around afterward to field all questions.
Here's a few quick thoughts and notes before I collapse.
USGS said the forage is at its lowest since they started surveying. That is largely a result of the invasive mussels.
Which explains Robillard saying, ``I can't impress on you enough that what we can put in the lake now is very limited.''
As a manpower issue (the state hatchery is down to six techs from 16), Robillard suggested a couple options that would have condensed the sites for stocking of the 100,000 brown trout. But in the end, most of the crowd backed sticking with stocking 10,000 at 10 sites scattered from the Wisconsin line to the Indiana line.
In one concession to predation of salmon stockings by seagulls, one of those cannons used to scare off gulls will be used this year when the stockings occur.
That whole issue raised a major discussion with SU members even offering to man and finance fish pens. That offer was basically rejected for a number of reasons.
``The salmon will run a gauntlet no matter what we do,'' Robillard said.
Biologist Dan Makauskas gave a condensed and disheartening assessment of the perch. Overall, 2008 was a disappointment.
The hope for the decent year classes is 2004, '05 and '06 is tempered by the fact those fish are growing extremely slowly, most likely because of the forage issues, which means they are more vulnerable. And after a brief spike in the sport catch of perch, that has started to fall too.
In answer to a Don Dubin question, Robillard said they would be open to stocking the mighty seeforellen brown trout, except that the fish would not fit within the limited schedule of the state hatchery.
And very emphatically in answer to a question from Bruce Caruso, Robillard said walleye stocking will not be considered. ``We don't need another top predator,'' he said. Afterward, he told me that decision came from Springfield.
Some tidbits: The 2005 year class of alewives is supporting the chinooks in Lake Michigan. . . . A study found that stocked lake trout move as much as 180 miles, but the ones at Julian's Reef only move about 24.
Afterward, veteran Chicago outdoorsman Jerry Pabst and Makauskas exchanged thoughts.